Setting Up Your First Off-Campus Apartment: Furniture and Decorating Guide

| August 9, 2012

college student studying in apartment You finally get to move off-campus. With the move will come more freedom than ever before and a to-buy list of furniture, home décor items and other accessories. DexKnows can help you find home décor and furniture stores near your school, so bring along this guide to setting up your first off-campus apartment.


With everything you buy, keep in mind that you are still in college and that the furniture will get moved countless times before you settle into somewhat of a permanent residence. So buy solid pieces, but don’t spend more than you can afford (read: do not max out your credit cards).

The one item you should splurge on is a mattress. A high-quality, comfortable mattress serves as the key to a good night’s sleep, which sets the tone for your entire day. For the other furniture you need, shop a mix of furniture stores and yard sales. Yard sales work especially well for hard-surface furniture. Buy a new couch if you can because a couch cannot be cleaned as well as, say, a table. Family leftovers also make great additions to your first off-campus apartment. Opt for streamlined pieces because they take up less room, an important attribute in an apartment.

To-buy list:


Start by choosing a paint color if the walls need a fresh coat or if you just want to make the place your own. Your local paint store can help you. Opt for a lighter, neutral color if space is an issue; darker colors will make a small room feel smaller. An accent wall in a darker color can create depth, though, so consider creating one if you have a long, narrow living room or bedroom. Check with the landlord to make sure the color is acceptable and see whether there is an allowance for paint. (Some landlords only want their painters touching the walls too.)

If your first off-campus apartment has less-than-desirable window coverings (read: really cheap blinds), pick out curtains in a shade that complements your new wall color and your overall decorating scheme, which likely will be determined by the color of your couch and upholstered items. Again, do not purchase pricey window treatments because they might not fit the windows in your next apartment.

Pick up inexpensive framed prints at the local furniture store and invest in numerous picture frames. Photos of friends and family make the best décor for an off-campus apartment because they will keep those you love in mind even when far away. Mirrors also help make a smaller space seem larger.

To-buy list:

  • Paint and painting accessories
  • Window treatments (if necessary)
  • Wall art
  • Mirrors

Other accessories

Light also can transform a smaller-than-you’d-like space. For example, a torchiere floor lamp will bounce light off the ceiling and back down on the room, creating a softer glow. When it comes to additional accessories, remember that clutter can make a space feel crowded. Plus, as a busy college student, you won’t have time to dust around a multitude of tchotchkes. Also, pick up plenty of floor pillows for the nights you have more friends over than seating space.

To-buy list

  • Lamps
  • A few accessories
  • Floor pillows

One final tip: If you will be sharing your first off-campus apartment with a roommate, or several, do not purchase any of the above items together. What happens if your best friend junior year turns into more of a frenemy by graduation? The last thing you want to do is fight over who gets what. If you purchase the couch, then your roomie can pick up the cost of the dining room table and chairs.

In addition to helping you find home décor and furniture stores near your school, DexKnows also has listings for movers if you need such help.

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Category: College Life, Interior Design

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.